Many startup entrepreneurs see branding as an unnecessary expense. Inventory costs, employee wages and business fees are already stretching your budget, so why invest in branding?

Well, branding can – and most likely will – determine the long-term success of your business. According to Forbes, products can become outdated and obsolete, but a trusted brand can outlive the product cycle. Also, your brand defines how customers perceive the quality of your products and services.

Your branding strategy should be an integral part of your initial business plan. It should influence the way you design advertisements, build your website, interact with customers and spend your marketing dollars. If you are a startup entrepreneur, these six strategies can take your brand to the next level:

1. Target a specific niche

Your products or services may be useful to a diverse customer base, but narrowing your audience can have a multitude of benefits.

It can save you a fortune in wasted marketing dollars by helping you identify the most profitable keywords to target with SEO, the best audience metrics for pay per click ads, and the most appropriate digital marketing channels.

Be as specific as possible when defining your customers. What is their minimum income? Where do they live? How do they interact with social media? What are their ages?

2. Be consistent

John Bertino, is CEO of The Agency Guy Inc or ‘TAG’ as it’s known by many.  TAG consults with companies of all sizes on branding and corporate messaging initiatives.  On the matter of consistency, he says “Consistency makes the difference between a good brand and a great brand. Familiarity breeds trust and consistency keeps that trust intact. We recommend to any company who takes their branding seriously that they invest in developing corporate brand standard guidelines to ensure company-wide consistency”.

3. Be honest

Some startups use bandwagon marketing tactics – for example, presenting themselves as advocates of clean energy. This won’t work unless the values you advocate relate to your products or services in some way while also resonating with your target audience.

4. Establish a strong online presence

Digital advertising offers a myriad of benefits to startup brands. When used correctly, paid ads, social media, SEO and other online marketing strategies produce exceptional returns on investment.

Pay per click ads can introduce your sales points to thousands of potential customers. Social media can give your company a daily voice and keep you connected with your audience. Search-engine optimization can generate organic traffic without attracting visitors through salesy ads.

Again, all of these advertising tools should be uniform. Whenever possible, use the same font, motto, logo and colors so people can grow familiar with your brand.

5. Know when to hire a professional

Even if you have a marketing budget, every entrepreneur wants to cut costs wherever possible. For startups, this often requires researching and completing unfamiliar tasks, such as business plan development, tax filing, social media marketing and other processes.

However, trying to do everything on your own can stunt your business’s growth. For example, if you build a website without the help of a marketing professional, you may need to redesign it if you decide to incorporate SEO.

On the other hand, if you consult a branding agency early, you can optimize your website and start building SEO benefits from the day it launches.

In addition to digital marketing, you should consider getting professional help on taxes. An accountant not only can help you avoid a potential audit, but he or she can also identify write-offs that you may not have noticed, which can save you thousands.

6. Get feedback

What does your target audience think about your logo? Your website? Your motto? Although Google AdWords ads and other marketing channels offer plenty of metrics, one of the best ways to generate feedback is to ask for it.

Give website visitors the opportunity to complete a short survey. Ask for opinions on social media. Your audience’s feedback not only can refine your brand strategy, but it can also help you improve your products and services.

Branding can determine the success of your business

Many entrepreneurs overlook branding, but in the long-run, your brand strategy can determine the success or failure of your business. If your advertisements are inconsistent, then customers won’t develop familiarity with your brand. If your target audience is too broad, then you could waste a fortune on advertising.

Always be honest with customers, and don’t be afraid to consult a professional. These tips can expand your audience, help you attract repeat customers, and set the foundation for your company’s long-term success.